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craft of memoir

Memoir Writing Tiny Tip #4: Theme and Variations

by Matilda Butler on September 13, 2016

catnav-interviews-active-3Post #229 – Memoir Writing Tiny Tip – Matilda Butler



Tiny Tip #4 Just for You

This is the fourth in a new (irregular) series of short blog posts designed to get you to focus on just one small point. I call them Tiny Tips.

Scroll to the bottom if you are interested in how this series got started.

Case in Point:

I attended a dynamic piano duo concert featuring Greg Anderson and Elizabeth Joy Roe. The program noted they are: “Known for their adrenalized performances, original compositions, and notorious music videos.”

musical notesThe concert was indeed electrifying. It was also inspiring. It provided the concept for today’s Tiny Tip #4. The third number that Anderson and Roe played was by Johannes Brahams–Variations on a Theme by Haydn, op. 56b. If you don’t know the work there is a Theme, followed by eight Variations and a Finale.

This reminded me of how often memoir writers have a series of vignettes that they want to write. What’s the best way of doing this? If there is a common theme (e.g. life lessons, growing up with three siblings, travel adventures, etc.), then consider how you might shape them into a theme and variations.

The important point here is that variations need to be different in tempo as well as in words. Taken as a whole, the variations might be: fast-paced, slow, happy, sad, light, heavy, etc. Vary the feel of each variation as well as different story details. It is through variation on the theme that the writer’s meaning comes through.

If you have written some vignettes, go back and look at them again. Do they all have the same tone? Do they sound like Johnny One Note? If so, consider today’s Tip Tip #4 — craft variations on your theme.

And that’s what you need to do.

How This Tiny Tip Series Started

The idea for a series of short writing tips came to me while reading the program notes for a chamber music concert. I realized that many (well, ok, most) of my blog articles get to be long and often require you to do certain things — like write from prompts I’ve provided. And while I will continue with this type of longer article because I think they are of real value, I realized that sometimes as writers we just want a little bit of information or a small new idea or a thought stated differently. We don’t have a lot of time.

That’s the concept behind each Tiny Tip. Just a nugget to give you something to think about as you go through your busy day.

Enjoy.

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Memoirist Looks at Theme

by Matilda ButlerJanuary 3, 2013
Memoirist Looks at Theme

A 2013 look at theme and message for your memoir writing.

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Memoir Contest Winner: Puttin On the Mask by Ronda Armstrong

by Matilda ButlerJune 7, 2012
Memoir Contest Winner: Puttin On the Mask by Ronda Armstrong

Women’s Memoirs publishes Ronda Armstrong’s first place winning story in our Halloween memories contest. Ronda finally overcomes her Halloween fear. Be sure to leave her a comment and a Like if you like her story.

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Memoir Book Business: The World of Publishing Continues to Change

by Matilda ButlerMay 4, 2012
Memoir Book Business: The World of Publishing Continues to Change

Women’s Memoirs shares our thoughts of changes in the book publishing world and what it means to memoir writers.

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Journaling Our Way to Kendra’s Birthday: Day 5

by Matilda ButlerJune 1, 2011
Journaling Our Way to Kendra’s Birthday: Day 5

Join Matilda and Kendra as they journal their way to Kendra’s 60th birthday. Try their memoir writing prompt inspired by Cr-aaa-kkk.

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Memoir Book Review: An Extraordinary Year of Ordinary Days by Susan Wittig Albert

by Amber Lea StarfireFebruary 16, 2011
Memoir Book Review: An Extraordinary Year of Ordinary Days by Susan Wittig Albert

Our regular blogger covering journaling, Amber Lea Starfire, reviews the 2008 journal kept by author Susan Wittig Albert that has just been released as a memoir entitled: An Extraordinary Year of Ordinary Days. She comes away with some surprising insights.

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Memoir Writing Prompts: The Unexpected

by Matilda ButlerFebruary 15, 2011
Memoir Writing Prompts: The Unexpected

Matilda Butler returns from her birthday cruise with a memoir writing prompt that may help you learn to write about your emotions.

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